This introduction to the special issue focuses on the messiness of biopolitics. The biopolitical is a composite mixture of heterogeneous, and sometimes conflicting, forces, discourses, institutions, laws, and practices that are embedded in and animated by material social relations. In the now extensive literature on biopolitics, our biopolitical era is characterized by the blending and mixing of what were previously thought of as separate realms: life is biologized, politics is biologized and biology is politicized, life and politics have been economized, and making life is intertwined with making death. This article provides a general overview of two strains of these biopolitical entanglements. It begins by examining the largely French and Italian focus on how politics and life have become economized in contemporary neoliberalism. We then turn to the mainly Anglo-American focus on the biologization of life. It concludes by taking up the central problem that arises from the messiness of biopolitics: whither the political of the biopolitical economy of life? Is there such a thing as the political proper in our era? If not, then what type of politics must be deployed to address the issues of our biopolis?
- homo oeconomicus